Demystifying Thyroid Disorders

Demystifying Thyroid Disorders

With 10% population presently suffering from hypothyroidism, India is home to one of largest populations suffering from thyroid disorders.Thyroid disorder is caused by improper functioning of thyroid gland which is located in your neck. The hormones secreted by this gland control your body’s metabolism. This gland sometimes makes too much thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) leading to improper metabolism and other complications. Given the fact that almost 30% of the thyroid cases in India remain undiagnosed, it is important to understand its causes, symptoms, diagnosis and prevention.

What are the causes?

Iodine deficiency is one of the most common causes of thyroid disorders. Other major causes include Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune condition), problem in pituitary gland (leading to insufficient production of TSH), Grave’s disease (in which immune system targets thyroid gland) and thyroid nodules (formation of lumps inside thyroid gland).

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms are typically non-specific and depend on the type of thyroid disorder. The most common symptoms are given below:

Hypothyroidism

  1. Body fatigue
  2. Weight gain 
  3. Feeling uncomfortable in cold
  4. Constipation
  5. Dry skin and thinning hair
  6. Pain in muscles and body aches
  7. Irregular menstrual periods
  8. Slow heart rate
  9. Depression and impaired memory

Hyperthyroidism

  1. Weight loss
  2. Palpitations and racing heartbeat
  3. Nervousness, agitation and tremors
  4. Increased appetite
  5. Sweating 
  6. Irregular menstrual cycle
  7. Feeling uncomfortable in heat
  8. Difficulty in sleeping
  9. Thinning of skin and brittle hair

 

How to detect it?

As thyroid disorder symptoms overlap with various other medical conditions, it becomes imperative to go for blood tests in order to pin point the disorder. The most commonly prescribed blood tests for Thyroid Profile include Thyroid Profile Test (T3, T4, TSH) and Free Thyroid Profile Test (FT3, FT4, TSH). Doctors sometimes may also prescribe imaging studies and tissue biopsies to gain detailed insights.

 

How to prevent it?

Thyroid disorders are generally not preventable. However, having iodine rich diet (iodised salt, cow milk, yogurt and eggs), better awareness of symptoms, regular screening by doctor and periodic preventive health checkups can help in early diagnosis.

It is important to note that although thyroid symptoms are not life threatening at the outset, untreated disorders can result in increased cholesterol levels, decreased bone density and higher risk of heart attack. In extreme conditions, it can even result in coma or extreme lowering of body temperature. Hence, it is highly advisable to focus on detection as when detected early, thyroid disorders can be easily managed through daily medication.

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